Steve Chang, owner of Copa Vida, has a unique perspective on building community through coffee shops. He believes that a cafe like Copa Vida should serve as a gathering space; where a community can organically form by allowing people to connect on their own accord.
The coffee shop chain CEO emphasizes that while a coffee shop can set the stage, it is the people who ultimately build and shape the community.
As a hospitality professional, the goal of the founder and CEO of Copa Vida is not to convince everyone to get along at his coffee shops, but rather to provide a neutral environment where diverse individuals can connect over a shared love for drinks and food.
“I don’t believe that a coffee shop builds community. I think a coffee shop is a place where community is built.” says Steve Chang to Shawn Walchef of CaliBBQ Media. “Our job is to actually help provide a place and product where people can easily link up.”
At Copa Vida, he is inspired by the stories behind each cup of coffee. For Chang, the drink represents more than a hot beverage — it embodies depth, purpose, and a powerful story.
He encourages customers to not just consume coffee but to personalize the Copa Vida mantra of “Go, Enjoy, Experience” through the stories and cultural significance embedded within each cup.
As Copa Vida continues to grow and expand, Chang recognizes the need for data-driven decision-making. While he values the hands-on approach of management, it becomes increasingly challenging with multiple locations. To bridge this gap, Copa Vida is transitioning to Toast, a comprehensive restaurant management technology platform.
“You have to depend on data. Data that’s driven to you, data that’s made easy to access, but also to understand data that shows you a true picture.” says Chang.
Steve Chang’s approach to building community through coffee shops emphasizes the role of individuals in creating meaningful connections. His passion for the stories behind each cup of coffee drives his vision of creating an experience that goes beyond taste.
Through his leadership, the restaurant leader aims to cultivate a welcoming environment where people can share in the richness of coffee and build connections that extend beyond the coffee shop’s walls.
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